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Real Wealth

Our work with families is underpinned by the development of Real Wealth. The Real Wealth model identifies five broad categories, each of which is essential to our ability to lead a life that  holds meaning and allows us to be productive.

Paying attention to each of these elements helps families develop their own strategies for coping. We focus on helping families strengthen their resilience and feel good about themselves.

real wealth graphic


The ability to bond and to connect with others starts at the basic level of a loving relationship between parents and their child. Families can only thrive if they are connected to, valued by and have a sense of belonging within their local communities.

At present the messages parents receive at the point of their child’s diagnosis and in subsequent dealings with professionals threatens that natural loving bond (Mason, 2008). We need to help parents trust their instinctive love for their disabled child and to develop confidence in their parenting ability. When parents feel good about their child and their role as a parent they are more likely to make positive connections within their local communities.

In order to make connections and develop relationships, children and families need to feel welcomed in their communities. They need to be able to access community activities and buildings; they need information that is welcoming and inclusive. Agencies have to understand the different aspects to access - physical, sensory, social and psychological - in order to appreciate the need for flexibility created by the multitude of different access needs. And it is not just about access to buildings, but more importantly access to relationships, opportunities and a wide human experience.

Unfortunately, it is still commonplace for disabled children to experience difficulties in accessing activities and experiences their non disabled peers take for granted (Murray, 2004). This has a knock on effect on their opportunities to make friends and develop natural support systems. The isolation they experience has a negative effect on their self-esteem and emotional well-being.

In order to make the most of our lives we need opportunities to develop our natural strengths, interests and talents. As we support connections and develop greater opportunities for taking part, we will help people who have not had the opportunity to get to know disabled children realise how much these children have to offer. Our culture places such an emphasis on the value of ‘doing’ that we often lose sight of the benefits we bring to each other through our very existence - our ‘being’. Our existence gives us a presence, and the value of that presence does not vary according to whether or not we happen to have an impairment. We are all of equal value.

Sadly it is still too often assumed that disabled children have little to offer and are consequently denied opportunities to develop interests. Often their natural interests and passions are misunderstood or go unrecognised. We have to develop a wider understanding of the universal truth that impairment does not make us ‘less than’ and we all have much to offer each other.

When we are denied the possibility of shaping our own lives, we lose opportunities to develop our autonomy. This makes us vulnerable and puts us at risk of being abused by others. Personalisation challenges us to find ways to trust each other enough so that we allow those we are in relationship with to find their own way through life, make their own decisions and learn about the consequences. We need to value the bodily expressions of children with complex impairments in the same what that we value speech and language, so that we give them the opportunities to develop their lives according to their likes and dislikes. Without this basic control, they cannot learn about or exercise their inherent citizenship.

Our world continues to give parents the message that experts know best when it comes to disabled children, and we fail to appreciate the communication of children who do not use speech or language to express themselves. Parents struggle to get communication aids for their children and the natural modes of expressing preference go largely unacknowledged. This diminishes opportunities for building autonomy and developing control.

Our experience of these four elements affecting our outer lives impacts on our inner strength and natural resilience. The events that happen to us and the way others treat us plays a part in weakening or strengthening our inner spirit. And it is this inner spirit that ultimately shapes our ability to take responsibility for the way we respond to life. When we give care and attention to this inner dimension - our own and other people’s -  we create an environment conducive to our personal and collective growth. Cultivating this environment - which we all contribute to and take from - allows us to claim the right of citizenship and the accompanying responsibilities.

The Real Wealth model was first developed by Pippa Murray, Simon Duffy and Nic Crosby.



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Page last published by pippa

“It is very hard for us to keep an open spirit when we face so much discrimination"
(Parent, 2011)